“Something inside of you is telling a story. I believe every little thing that you see and hear is talking to you.”
– Jim Carrey
Moving to a new city can often be a bit daunting. It requires you to establish yourself in a place you’re not familiar with. It requires you to make this new place, your place. You have to find your new favorite sushi place, your favorite bar, the park where you’ll go for runs, where you’ll be doing your grocery shopping, and most importanly, your new favorite coffee shop. These are not daunting tasks by the traditional sense of the word, it’s daunting in the sense that it requires you to be dilligent in your search, it requires your one precious commodity, your time. It’s daunting because you want to make sure you’ve found the place you belong.
One of those all imporant places you must find is a barber, or perhaps a salon. That can be a daunting task, in the traditional sense. You don’t really want to get that wrong, the consequences might be more than you’re willing to risk. Being new to Nashville, I had to find my new barber shop. The place where I would entrust my hair to someone, which is ultimately a part of our everyday lives and to someone like myself, it matters.
I did my due dillengence, I asked my roommate Jeremiah where I should go, asked a few others, and checked the often helpful Yelp!
But this isn’t about finding a barbershop in Nashville. It’s about the places we are drawn to.
We are drawn to the places we belong.
I found a place where I belong. A place I could dive right into conversation with Nick, the master barber, a place that housed multiple 80’s and 90’s movie’s posters that brought back such incredible movies of my childhood, a place that was plastered with famous celebreties that I admire, such as Burt Reynolds, Mick Jagger, and even my all time favorite painting of Steve McQueen, who is the original man of wild stories.
Sitting down with Nick, I discovered he was an avid outdoorsman, who loved to fly fish and has even been to Bozeman, MT to fly fish, which is where we just returned from. We shared our favorite spots in Nashville and it turns out, we have the same taste in food, music, and craft beers. It’s inspiring to me, how the universe can conspire on your behalf to provide the necessary paths that shape your experience when you allow the room.
I am constantly open to exploring any and every experience and in that, I feel I will meet the people with the best stories, find the routes that open my eyes to see what is new around me, and to take me to where I belong. When we are open to the experience, we are drawn to where we belong.
Like I said, this isn’t necessarily about finding a barber, it’s about finding those places along our journey that we feel a sense of belonging and holidng onto those place, and making them our spaces. We share them and occupy them, we find solace in them, we experience and begin to inhabit their story, we begin to cultivate community, which is all we’re really striving for.
You’ll know when you’ve been drawn to the places you belong. Trust the experience.
A new year is here again, another time to reflect on the collection of moments past and thoughts for the future.
We are obsessed with time. How old are you? When will that happen? How long until? When was that? It passes by quickly and yet sometimes seems to stall. One moment mundane and the next, breathtaking. How we spend it is in our total control and how it passes is unwavering. It is our most treasured possession.
In general, I am introspective person and I cherish shifts in time where natural reflection happens. This year, these moments have been plentiful. Starting the beginning of 2016 in Charlotte working full-time as an Art Director, I would have never imagined what would ensue in the following 12 months. Those are the things I would only day dream of and imagine. Never put into action.
Yet, here I am. Thousands of miles later.
2016 was the year that I traveled through 13 states, hiked hundreds of miles, left my comfort zone, said no to things that didn’t serve me, fought for those that did, spilled ink pots while lost in moments of creative exploration, painted windows and walls, made summits, learned to understand my heart a little bit more and proved to myself that I was brave enough to spend my precious time with thoughtful intention.
It has been scary. These are the things that people like me don’t do. Fall in love when it doesn’t make sense. Take a leap without a backup plan. Trust that things will work out.
As this year closes and another begins, it is becoming increasingly more clear to me that this is the only way to live. Relentlessly, with your heart on your sleeve and nervous about the next step. Time is passing and it won’t wait for you to muster up that deep breath, collect your thoughts and take the plunge into the risky, awakening experience in front you. At the end of the day, the only thing you truly own is your experience, creative expression and courage. This is your time to spend.
Here’s to 2017. May this be just the beginning of a lifetime of adventure, love, creativity and exploration.
This is the real story of our summer of adventures:
Yesterday, Jason left. I spent the rest of the day cleaning the house, moving out, and finding remnants of the sun soaked, dirt covered summer days. As I finished, I took one last moment in the summer home to sit in front of the fire place and take it all in.
I looked out the picture window at the snowman we had built the day before. He began to drip in the warm sun. I just stared and without warning, my body began to shake and tears poured down my face. Yet, I was smiling. I have never experienced this before.
Everything has fallen into place. These are the things we don’t talk about much. Earlier in the summer, Jason was laid off. His big client decided to take their work in house thus leaving no work for the agency. Due to unfortunate circumstances, this was the second time in our relationship that this had happened. Quickly, my mind went frantic, concluding all of the worst case scenarios. “I can’t do this. This isn’t the life I signed up for. What is HE going to do?!” Damnit. We are in Montana with one car and no plan.
It is so easy to find yourself in situations such as this and give up. Or in my case, shut down and try to figure everything out in my own flustered mind, without talking. As the summer days passed full of fish, long hikes in indescribable country, visits from friends, road trips, camping, summits, and crisp air, overtime, I realized, this was the plan all along. Because of this, I got to spend every waking moment, experiencing this place, feeling and summer with Jason. Instead of spending his days tucked into our home behind a computer, we played. We scraped by as we both picked up freelance gigs here and there and, it worked.
While none of this misfortune was his fault, I put it in his hands. One day we were hiking and as we approached a tall summit, it struck me. He is doing everything I asked of him. (Which is a lot) He came to my home town, left everything he knew and never once has said, “No.” To every adventure, family dinner, dance lesson, craft project, drive or crazy idea, he has been just as excited if not more, than Lucy, our dog. He has shown up with his whole soul ready to love me and the life we are living.
As I sat on the fireplace and cried joyful tears, the memories of this summer rolled like a slideshow in my head: hard earned summits, Lucy discovering creeks, perfect and unforgettable visits from friends, the stars, backpacking, breathtaking views, National Parks, bike rides and fireside conversations. While, there were moments this summer that I doubted success, I sat on the fireplace in awe of God, His plan and His execution. Jason left to go to Nashville for an far more fruitful job than the last. I am allowed the time to go spend a month with my mom in Texas to help her as she goes through surgery and Nashville, that is our next adventure.
Of course, you can never know how any one experience will turn out. Going into this summer, I knew to expect the surroundings, the majesty of a Montana summer but the rest was all a delightful surprise. The moments of disbelief caused Jason and I to have hard conversations and learn an extraordinary amount about each other. The freed up time allowed us to take every minute of this summer at its fullest and the timing of Nashville is perfection. I am grateful for the time apart as we can appreciate the beauty of the last four months without quickly moving into the next routine. This was a summer that changed us. It changed me and it changed him and made for a better us. This is what happy, grateful tears are made of.
This is the moment we live for. The one where you get to decide everything. Where you live, what you want to do, who you do this adventure with, how you do it and what is important to you. What a complete and utter blessing! What a terrifying place to be standing!
Each moving piece drifts into my mind and I quickly dismiss them as a distant thought. Until, they return vigorously knocking and am I reminded that this is the reality in front of me: a world of infinite possibility followed by a fork in the road.
Two months ago, I did something a little crazy. I quit my job, intentionally pulled the comfort right out from under myself and started a new path. I moved to a place I once called home. The place I attribute my identity to. Without employment, I took a chance on myself and my ability to create and hustle. I left town with a boy and brought him to my home.
I’ve never looked back.
The home I returned to has a whole new facade and pulse. It has been five years since I have spent my days here. The people are changed, there are new buildings, I am changed, the sky is still breathtaking and the mountains continue to hold my soul.
Coming back, I naively expected the place I left. While the streets and trails are the same and the faces familiar, to me, this place is mostly new. People always told me, “Go! You can always come back. This will always be here.” They weren’t wrong. The place is still here but time has continued on without me. The soul of the place that I left, is older and changed. As is mine.
Summer is coming to an end and the ground under my feet is shifting. The life I left two months ago is calling me back like a room full of old friends. The life in front of me is a party that I have not been to before but they are serving plates of potential, wine of wonder and drugs that may knock you out or, may give you total elation. As I stand here looking at each, I realize a rain check is not an appropriate response to either invite. The time is now. This time will not wait.
Stability, city, safe and smart. Freedom, forests, fumbling and new frontiers.
This is the moment we live for. The one where you get to decide everything.What a complete and utter blessing! What a terrifying place to be standing.
My friend Christian wrote this a few years ago and it has resonated with me since then. I’ve asked him to share this post here, as it was originally posted on the Imperial Black blog, Journey of the Orange Thread. – Yarby
“My two fingers on a typewriter have never connected with my brain. My hand on a pen does. A fountain pen, of course. Ball-point pens are only good for filling out forms on a plane.”
My first encounter with a journal started as a young boy around Christmas time. The children of our family would give my Grandfather a diary every year without fail. The crisp, densely stacked pages, black pebbled leather cover, and gold embossed lettering waiting and ready for a years worth of ruminations and scribblings. After he passed away we would retire to the cramped back hallway where he kept his things. His desk jammed against a plaster wall overflowed with journals. Swollen with time and ink stained, his diaries would entertain us for hours as we sat in air that still smelled of pipe tobacco and pencil shavings. Page after page we would leaf. Each book a glimpse into a jam packed life. Train timetables, tickets to football matches played long a go, a shopping list for the butcher, birthdays of the grand children, results of boxing matches, and scrawl after scrawl of “notes to self” consumed the yellowing pages.
I think It’s with these “notes to self” that the process of keeping a journal begins. I don’t think that there is ever an epiphany where pencils are sharpened, new notebooks are ordered and the mandate is given to self that “From this point on I will write everything down”. It all smells too much of self help or at the very least a language course at university- Students scrambling to fit a months worth of remedial Spanish sentences in before the end of term (he estado tomado medicamentos!). No, it must be a gradual thing. It starts with a climbing route written on the flip side of a receipt, directions to a restaurant scrawled over a Thai Airways ticket, an incredible bottle of Rioja on the back of a matchbook, a ferry schedule on a hotel pad. Pockets become full of such ephemera and soon a small notebook comes into play. Perfect for dashing off an address to hand to a driver, some quick notes after a meeting, or a brief yet searing love letter.
Good travelers are good listeners. The best travelers are shameless eavesdroppers. Overheard snippets of conversation (a greeting of old friends in a cafe, a lovers quarrel by the quayside, a discussion about the new regime) all find their way between the pages. The passing countryside out the train window, the shamble of a Central American border crossing, campesinos out for an evening stroll are noted and written down. Put the camera phones away, engage with your surroundings and move from behind the lens and the world will open up to you. At the end of the day, with a Belikin in hand take some time to reflect, the words will come pouring out of you. Your future self will thank you. No low res photos run through a dodgy filter to be lost forever on some hard drive. You’ll be left with something real, a part of who you were at that moment. A part of your surroundings.
We are inspired by our surroundings to no end. Our journals have grown in size and now provide an ongoing chronicle of Imperial Black. Fabric swatches sit next to plane tickets, a brief sketch of an interesting lapel crowds a snapper recipe. The perfect button size straddles the margins of the latest shirting breakdown. A Nicaraguan colloquialism scratched hastily on a back cover yields inspiration for a shirt fabric months later. We are always evolving as are our journals. A repository for the future us to remind where we came from and the circuitous path we took to get where we are.
There is a meditative quality to writing your thoughts down. A cathartic release that happens when pen is put to page. Once you begin to do so you’ll find it quite hard to stop. Your travels will become all the richer for it. We promise……
The luxury of air travel does not escape me. Here I am, on my iPad, sipping…..drinking a Jack and Coke while Public Enemy rockets through my headphones. There isn’t much to complain about besides my ass getting numb only 30 minutes into the flight and my seats ability to only recline 2 ½ inches. I’m loving the window seat directly on top of the right wing. Each time (twice so far) that I’ve sat over top of the wing I’ve felt this sort of…honor. As if they had placed me here full-well knowing that if something went wrong with the wing, I’d be on top of that shit.
Damn right I am. I just hope my fellow “Passenger Safety Officers” are as attentive as I am.
I’m looking’ at you, guy sitting next to the emergency exit towards the front of the plane with a terrible comb over. Anybody who struggles with their identity like that should get called into question as to how they view life and death. I will speak to the Captain as soon as I am able.
All of a sudden I feel the urge to shout like William Shatner:
“THERE’S……………………. SOMETHING ON THE WING………SOME……THING…”
Nah. I’m already excited to have just bought alcohol on an airplane. The first time I ever flew was back and forth to Italy when I was 17, so scratch this one off the “Bucket List”.
Moving onto Dr. Pepper now. Better play it safe if I have to cover for “Colonel Comb Over” up there.
The woman next to me is fast asleep, her chin resting ever so gently on one of those neck-pillow things. By “ever-so-gently” I mean to say, her head has been rocking back and forth so violently she reminds me of a crash test dummy in the middle of an experiment. Lucky for her the Captain placed me in this seat for safety. I’ll continue to monitor her stats…. from a distance of course. The guy in the aisle seat though? The Old Man? No. He’s on his own if shit goes down. He’s blocking my way to the closest exit door and let’s be honest….he’s lived a full life.
I’m slightly cautious of a few of the people on the plane with us, not to say I think anything is going to happen but if there was ever anybody threatening to mentally snap from the nervousness of flight via the way they present themselves, it’s got to be these few. The guy in the Bow-Tie looks especially uneasy. Then again…. he kind of looks like Ray Liotta, who is a badass.
If there is anything I’ve learned not to take for granted in this life, it’s gamer chicks, Leonard Nemoy, Jaguar Sharks, peanut butter covered pine-cones, and Ray Liotta.
So in about 6 hours we’ll be touching down in San Francisco California. On our way we’ll cross a ton of states I have never had a desire to go to, and a handful of landmarks that I HAVE wanted to go to. Out my window, beyond my wing (I’ve named it Geoff), will eventually be sights such as the Mississippi River, the Grand Canyon, and somewhere in there, the grave of Walter Matthau.
Once I get there the plan is simple: Grab bags, get to hotel, drop bags, find the nearest beach, stick feet in ocean. The Pacific Ocean, another piece of Earth that has eluded me. I love the ocean; despite the level of death it can incur. It’s a magical, wonderful beast unto itself and within it there is life.
A little turbulence…. keep it together Geoff. I’ve decided to name the other wing “Dirty Harry”, don’t ask me why, it just feels right.
Anywho, there is going to be a small photo tour through the city shortly after my arrival. No doubt it will be excellent. I’ve brought along my wife’s Cannon for the trip to get as good shots as possible. Needless to say, my life was threatened. I’ve never had someone look so lovingly in the eyes as they informed me of my imminent castration if anything bad happens to a piece of photo equipment. We are perfect for each other.
We’re over the Mid-West somewhere when the call comes across the intercom.
“If there anyone on-board who is a Doctor, EMT, Paramedic, or First Responder……please come to the rear of the plane.”
Heads turn, half in concern, half in excitement. The imagination starts to kick in, especially with our current location. Could be anything at all. Three or four people have made their way to the back of the plane, a curtain is now drawn for privacy. A few people are mumbling, probably about all the recent health scares that have been touted across the news outlets over the past few weeks. I’ll keep you updated.
Back to our destination…. San Francisco. It’ll be the first time I’ve been on that side of the country. Hell, the first time I’ve made it farther West than West Virginia. As much as I love the idea of traveling, I don’t usually get around to it. Money and all is quite difficult to come by while raising a little one. With my family’s support though, I’m here.
Possibly the greatest meeting of minds in the world of the Parenting Media, from the Dad side of things. Great strides have been made in the past two years to get rid of the stigma associated with fatherhood. We are not mindless thugs who don’t know a diaper from a hand grenade. We are not all porn obsessed binge drinkers with a hair up our ass about being in charge of a small human. Sure the world holds a ton of those types, but the level at which Dad’s are attacked outright as being these Homer Simpson type assholes should be classified as a hate crime. We’re looking to change that.
An hour and a half till landing and the Captain radios back to us.
We’re over Utah…and it’s going to get a little choppy. Seatbelt lights are on. Damn, right when I was thinking it’s time to stretch my legs a bit. I’m sure Sleeping Beauty and the Old Man in the Aisle won’t mind too much.
There’s a lady sitting in the row ahead of me, in the middle seat. I will call her the “Bose Lady”, as she has not taken off her top-end, ridiculously expensive, noise-canceling headphones off since before we boarded the plane. She seems very interested in the piece on Anne Hathaway that’s in the airline produced Magazine we’ve all been given. Maybe I can trade with her. Mine is about Gwyneth Paltrow and well….y’know…..sick of her.
Our flight attendants are quite a bunch. Two women in their 40’s and a “20 something” feminine young man named Nathan. He’s very sweet, with his little drink cart and his apron. The coffee is terrible, although I’m sure there is nothing they can do about that. One would ponder though that they would at least be able to make some adjustments to keep the flow of grinds out of my little paper cup, but it could be worse. That’s the kind of attitude you have to keep on a plane like this, it could always be worse. Although…they spend millions of dollars developing airplanes and can’t develop technology to keep grounds out of your coffee?
No news on the passenger that needed a doctor. Seems everything worked out just fine.
Looking out the window for the first time in a few hours, I’m a little shocked. I’ve never seen such a huge expanse of land colored so red. I tried to take pictures with the Canon but they came out pretty bright. I’m sure later, or “in post” as the professionals say, we can darken it up a bit and see what’s good. I snapped a few pics on the ol’ iPhone for good measure. Doesn’t show a whole lot of detail, but it’s in better contrast than the Canon.
As I was standing in the rear, waiting for the bathroom, I noticed ashtrays still installed in the lavatory doors. According to the flight attendant this plane has been in operation for quite a while. Long enough at least to still allow smoking for a time, especially in Europe she says. Yes, this is an Old Bird as it turns out. Nevertheless, it seems that Geoff and Dirty Harry will get us to our destination right on time.
We’ll see how much free time I can work out from the conference schedule. I aim to have my feet in the ocean, my eyes on the Golden Gate Bridge, and my wallet a little lighter than when I arrived by the time Sunday morning rolls around.
The choppiness continues. I have faith in my Captain however, as it is obvious he has faith in me to keep an eye on Geoff. I’ve just taken notice of Dirty Harry’s caretaker, looks about my age, fiddling with his Mac laptop. Baldy continues to concern me. When was the last time his credentials were checked?
Hell…..when was the last time MY credentials were checked? I mean, my Goddam passport photo is from 8 years ago. That was before I could grow any facial hair and I still got that terrible 90’s haircut known as “The Caesar”. I’m just imagining my face, hairless, and a little cowlick sticking up on the front of my head like a cheap tiara. What the hell was I thinking back then? Tell you the truth, when I think back to my high school days I realize how emotionally fucked up I was. No matter, people grow up. No time to look back now, keep your eyes on the future. The prize is ahead, not behind you.
We’re jumping about quite a bit at the moment. Geoff is wiggling obnoxiously but holding together. I’d tell you about the other one but unfortunately the Mac-Lover has fallen asleep. Its getting to the point where if we shake any more my bladder will release. I’d bring it to the attention of Sleeping Beauty and The Old Man, but I know if I concentrate I can pull it together.
C’mon Geoff. Me and you. We can hold strong.
I can officially report my dissatisfaction with the so-called “Snack Box”. It consisted of a strip of Cheddar Cheese, plain crackers, a mini Fig bar, Almonds, Cookies, and two below average mints. I suppose we’ll start from the beginning.
The cheese was warm, the crackers were dull, the cookies weren’t real cookies, the mints made my mouth smell worse than it was, and the fig bar tasted like a Vegetarian shat in my mouth. And let’s be honest….Almonds are Almonds.
The Captain has graced us with his wealth of knowledge once more. We are beginning our decent into San Francisco, the weather down there is 70 degrees and overcast. Sounds perfect to me, especially having come from miserable, snow-covered Pennsylvania. That’s right, myself and the band of misfits I share a plane with have traveled across the entire country to be here. Just look at a map of the United States and think about that. That’s so far, we might as well be in another country. I’ve learned in my years that you should always respect the largeness of the universe you live in, and nothing will make you give more respect to that than flying in a tin can crammed with people as you look down over thousands of miles of land you’ve only ever heard of.
Geoff has adjusted, and my ears have just popped. Must mean we are landing in a few minutes. I can’t help but smile. I miss my little one, and my wife. But the thrill of adventure will always keep you in good spirits.
As I made my way down to the baggage pick-up area, I noticed my phone had died. I’ll have to find a charging station around.
I suppose you don’t plan on a hat becoming a part of who you are. I realize that sounds farcical, that’s not lost on me, but like listening to a song during a certain period of your life or the aroma of a certain tree reminding you of seasons, an article of clothing can graft itself into a place in the soul.
We were exploring downtown Charleston when we embarked upon an unlikely outdoors shop on King Street. I say unlikely due to the fact that King Street shopping is essentially tourist boulevard. Not the type of place you expect to find a half decent outdoors shop. If you’ve been there, you know, if you haven’t, you need to go. It’s beautiful. I had been in the market for a new hat, that I’ll call my adventure hat. Why a new “adventure hat?” Well, the stage had already been set for a summer of adventures: camping, exploring, fishing, backpacking, climbing, and more, through the adventure wonderland of Montana. Again, sounds farcical, but I wanted a new hat for the new adventures we were going on; mostly because I wasn’t planning on living a summer of perfectly shaped hair.
I found the new adventure hat in Downtown Charleston. Essentially, I bought this hat because of the way it looked, how it fit, and what it said. There wasn’t a light shining from above with angelic voices singing as I approached it. Honestly, I wasn’t even the one looking for a hat in this particular store. It was Sam, my girlfriend, she needed a new beach hat for the day (she eventually found one).
I like my hats. That’s not a metaphor for anything in particular, I just really enjoy wearing a good hat. I don’t have one hat for all occasions, I have a few hats that I cycle through on a regular basis. Hell, I use to wear a fedora on a regular basis. I like hats. But this summer’s hat, it quickly became a part of me. Not in a way that shaped my identity, but in a way that it related with the very being of who I am.
Perhaps it was the way it quickly began to patina. I love the life, and the personality, that items begin to take on when they start to patina. My dad and I make pens and the first one I made, on my own, is the one I carry most frequently. It’s quite simple, made of oak, has basic silver fittings, and writes like any ball point pen. Except for the fact that I made it with my own hands. I’ve had it about three years now and the every day holstering and unholstering out of my pocket, along with the daily use, has begun a wear on it’s shell that gives it a life of it’s own. A reminder of the story and the life we have lived together. The stories we have written together, the adventures, the rigor of everyday life, and every now and then, another maker will catch a glimpse of the pen and compliment the it’s patina. Not the fact that it’s a handcrafted pen, but the way it’s wearing and taking on a personality. The hat, much like my pen, already has stories to tell and is wearing them like a badge of honor. The same can be said for my wax canvas bag, my knife, my jeans, all my possessions, really.
I’m not afraid to use my possessions and put them through the elements, to run them through my life. I want stories to share with my things, stories that might tell themselves and stories that invoke the question, “what happened here?”. I want to look at my wax canvas bag and see the scrapes, abrasions, rips and think of the camping trips and the road trips it took me on. I want to remember the drive from the east coast, starting in NC, taking me through TN, stopping in St. Louis for Sam’s birthday, a couple of days in Boulder, to seeing the Grand Tetons for the very first time and onward to Montana. I lived out of that bag for five days and I was, by no means, tender with it. It was a rigorous trip, on the bag, the car, and our bodies, and it was one we will never forget. I want to look at that bag and remember living out of it.
I wore my hat on that same trip. It’s a Patagonia LoPro Trucker hat that says “Conquerers of the Useless”. I told you, it’s nothing special. Typically I don’t even like trucker hats, it’s the only one I own. But there was something about this hat that I found particularly special. Perhaps it’s the quote, “Conquerers of the Useless”, meaning, do something useless today and really own it. I can own that. I can get out there and have an experience that is seemingly useless to some, but after exploring that experience, it plays a small part in the continual shaping of who I am.
Doing something useless is an experience that becomes a part of the patina of me.
The phrase “Conquerors of the Useless” is the tagline to the popular documentary, 180° South, which turns out to be one of my girlfriends favorite documentaries.
Buying the hat, I knew nothing of the story of “Conquerors of the Useless.” But sitting by a campfire in Beartooth Mountains, I started thinking about our summer of adventures, the places, the experiences, the moments, and at that moment I was wearing the hat, took it off, glanced it over and realized it had been with me all along. And the life it was taking was becoming something I was proud to wear. Once I returned to my computer, I searched the phrase and came across Jeff Johnson, his story, his passion for doing the “useless” and I think I have discovered a new hero.
I think the Conquerors of the Useless would be proud of the adventure’s that the hat and I have been on this summer. Together, we’ve camped Glacier, backcountry hiked Yellowstone, multiple 10+ mile hikes, laid eyes on the Grand Tetons, explored Bozeman, MT, learned to fly fish, drove The Beartooth Highway (remarkable, by the way), and well, the list goes on.
A summer of adventuring may seem like a summer of the useless. Why would we drop everything, move to Montana for the summer, spend all of our free time “adventuring?” To most, it probably doesn’t make sense. To others, it may evoke a riot of envy. To us, it’s a experience that is shaping the story we are telling, it is a chance to explore just for the sake of seeing something we wouldn’t see by following routine, it is us, Sam and I, falling in love and crafting our story around adventure and journey. Doing something useless and owning it, is more than just doing something useless, it’s about doing something for you, to shape you, to become you. It’s adding to the patina of your life and the story it is telling.
Here’s to Conquering the Useless and to the next adventure.
Explore the Experience.
Today was our first solo hike. Our, as in Lucy and myself. Lucy is our dog who lives for adventure more than Sam and myself. Sam will be in Alaska fishing for the week, so Lucy and I decided it was time to get into the Gallatin National Forest and explore on our own for a bit. Let’s be honest, Lucy will go anywhere as long as the window is down.
It started out relatively simple, fun and lighthearted. It was hike that we could do in less than a couple of hours, full of beautiful scenery, easily accessed from where we live. Sam gave me a list of easily accessible day hikes in the Bozeman area, before she left. Middle Cottonwood was one of those on the list and sounded the most exciting. After a bit of searching online, I discovered it to be easy, so easy in fact, that I thought it was be more fun for Lucy, seeing that there were multiple creek access points.
But somewhere along the way, I missed the point where Middle Cottonwood ended. And I just kept walking.
Lucy was running from creek access to creek access, thinking that she would love it was completely accurate. The dog loves water. Every time we approach a creek she trots over to the creek bed steps in and lays down. Just lays right down in the middle of the creek, I think she’s the happiest there. I was running with the camera from one new scenic view to the next, the scenes were incredible. No bend was like the other. It was breathtaking, and the further we went, the more incredible the scenery.
We passed a young family about 45 minutes in, a young mom, late 20’s and her daughter were leading the pack, followed by their son, who was about 11, and dad of mid-30’s, we’ll call him Randy, for relatable purposes. I greeted the family with a casual, “how is it up there?” Having no actual clue where up there was or if there even was an “up there.” Randy replied with a smile and a simple “it just gets more beautiful the further you go.”
Perfect, that’s what we needed. More beautiful. So Lucy and I keep jumping in creeks and taking pictures.
We really didn’t know how far “further” was and honestly didn’t care. We were out for a day hike.
I say I didn’t care about how much further, further was, but I still kept finding myself saying “maybe we should just turn around.” But Randy the Dad was right, it just kept getting more and more beautiful the further up we went. The mountain goats were unexpected, i’ve only seen those on higher elevation hikes, which is when I knew we were going further. The view of *Saddle’s Peak with a peripheral view of Sam’s favorite, the Spanish Peaks, the zen-like sound of gravel crunching under my feet, the creek crackling next to us and a clear, inviting sky as we walked in to the day made going further more like therapy than physical exertion. At one point, the smell of the forest was so overwhelming, that we stopped, I closed my eyes, stood in the middle of the trail and took it in. It was the scent of pine trees mixing with the breeze of the mountain air, that picked up with it, the scent of berries that surrounded. I had a moment with Gallatin National Forest.
I’m guessing we went around at least 18 different bends, that included me saying at least 18 different times that we were just about there. We weren’t. We came around one corner and there at the end of that stretch was a beautiful cluster of boulders, that I assumed signaling the end of the trail, offering a place for us to drink our water and eat our snacks. You know what they say about assuming.
I walked up to the boulders, that offered a spectacular view, and peered over my shoulder, there was still more trail. “SERIOUSLY?” So we walked out on the boulders, snapped a few pictures, and kept walking.
The further we went, the more beautiful it became.
I didn’t really know how far it was at the time, but I wasn’t expecting “far.” But I knew if we kept going, we were going to continue to be greeted by beautiful scene after beautiful scene. So we continued.
We eventually made it to the top. Lucy had to stop in the shade of a pine tree, since there was little shade on this trail. Once we got to the top, it was evident we were at the top and Randy the Dad was right, it was more beautiful at the top, although I highly doubt Randy the Dad and his family went the way we went.
The view, the thoughts, the elation of sitting under this pine tree’s shade with Lucy while I write this, along with a couple of Bruk’s Bars (thank God I brought these, they were serious fuel) could not be met by any other feeling today.
Today, we went further. Today, we pushed ourselves. Today, we encountered beautiful.
Today, I will take solace in the face that we went further and it kept getting more and more beautiful.
Today, Go Further.
Today, Find the Beauty.
*We made it to Saddle’s Peak, turns out it was a 10 mile hike, not that far in the grand scheme of things, but our longest, with a quick elevation gain of roughly 3,000 feet. It was a solid day’s work.
You have all heard this before. Be grateful and you will be happy. Good advice, I agree.
In a recent conversation with a friend, I was listening to them explain their day. My response was, “Good for you! You’re living the dream.” Their quick rebuttal was, “Yeah, well, there’s this and there is that.”
True to form, I found this as an introspective moment and thought about my own response, if that statement were presented to me. For the first time, I am so thrilled and proud to say that, yes, “I am living the dream, there is this and that, but this is still my dream.” Hold on, this isn’t some pompous, I’m so great, look at me, blog. Quite the opposite actually.
I am proud to say this because…. Living the dream is a choice. The choice isn’t always to quit your job, move across the country etc. It is the type of choice that you wake up everyday and say, “Man, I love this. I can’t believe I get to do this. I love the people I surround myself with. I love what I am working towards. I love the city in which I live…” That is the most important choice you can make.
Late to the party, I recently started reading, The Minimalists. One notion in particular stood out to me. They talked about the anchors we all have in our lives. These anchors can be anything from debts, people in our lives that aren’t positive, tasks, material items, thoughts etc. Essentially, anything that is preventing you from moving forward and having the life that you are proud of.
Ready for this? Here is the good news: YOU can change all of that! No, it won’t happen overnight and sometimes it may take quite a bit of work. However, it is in that process you will slowly find yourself, thinking, “Man, I love this.”
Over the past month of being in Montana, I have been quick to point out all of the things I’m doing “wrong.” “We need to make more money. I need to meditate everyday. We need to only eat vegetables. Nag. Nag. Nag.” (Just writing the out makes me feel icky. Eh hum… anchor?)
I am certainly one to think, “when I do ___, I will be happy.” (Oh, I’m the only one? You guys are lucky.) On my recent journey it has been, when I meditate or write every day, that will be it, I will be happy. In the above mentioned conversation with a friend, it hit me, wait, I am happy. All of this, “if, when” talk was getting in the way of simply waking up, taking a few moments to look around, be grateful, take a deep breathe and be in awe of this life.
And, would you look at that? There is my meditation.
There is no doubt I have my own anchors, big ones. However, I know what they are and am making a conscious effort to lift them from the ground and turn them into kites. I feel very Polly Anna writing this post and can hear the comments, “Oh, you’re young. Things aren’t always a walk in the park. You’re going to need a real job one day. You’re living in a fantasy world.” Fine. Yes, all of that may happen.
Here is the biggest thing I have learned from my adventure thus far, fantasyland or not, we all have the choice to wake up and see the good, remove the bad and live the dream. It’s a choice, and I am going to make it for the rest of my days.